Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



This is one of those movies you’re probably not going to love, but can easily admire. The script by James Ellroy and the director, Oren Moverman, concerns a bad cop, Dave “Date Rape” Brown, brilliantly played by Woody Harrelson, who has been busting heads and, now and then, shooting people for a long time, and now it’s all coming home to roost after he is videotaped whaling on a black guy who ran into his car and then tried to run away. He seems to literally believe that he’s done nothing wrong. He says at one point that he never hurt a good guy … and there’s a grain of truth in that. The guys he has tuned up are invariably scumbags, and the ones he killed probably had it coming. Remember, before Rodney King became a folk hero he was a life-long scumbag. He led police on a long chase at up to 90 mph because he was drunk and in violation of his parole on a robbery conviction. He did resist arrest, and he did lunge at police officers. And if they had only done what was in the book, what they had been trained to do, which was swarm him with five officers, pin him to the ground, cuff him, and toss his sorry ass into the back of a cruiser, no one would know his name now and many deaths and much destruction could have been avoided. (And he never would have had about $4 million to blow through in a few years and end up broke and without skills, as he is now.) But that’s Woody’s problem, he can’t see that “by the book” is the only way to play it. He’s definitely a bad man, but it is sad to see his disintegration, and that is the strength of Woody’s characterization. The story takes place during the Rampart scandal, when the LAPD was under fire from all directions. (BTW: Joseph Wambaugh points out that, after all the storm and fury, only two officers were every proven to be dirty). We see how the politics of the time worked both for him and against him. It’s a good story, well-told, and with excellent supporting work from Robin Wright, Ned Beatty, Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi, Ann Heche, and Ice Cube. (And again BTW: Isn’t it about time some of these actor/ex-rappers got rid of their stupid rap names? His real name is O’Shea Jackson. That’s a great name!)